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Carolyn Louise Selldorff
December 26, 2023
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Carolyn Louise Selldorff passed away from the aftereffects of a serious stroke on December 26, 2023, at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. She died peacefully, gracefully and softly at 9:34 in the morning with her husband, her children John, Frank and Jennifer and five grandchildren Samantha, Alexandra, Matthew, Francis and Lili at her bedside to say goodbye.
She was born in Des Moines, Iowa to Louise and Carroll Wolfinger as the oldest of three children and grew up in Cincinnati, Ohio, Chicago, Illinois and Washington D.C. She graduated from New Trier High School in Wilmette, Illinois and then came east to study at Cornell University in Ithaca, NY, graduating in 1956 with a B.A. degree in Economics and Mathematics. She started her career in the early days of computers as an analyst with the RAND Corporation and their subsidiary System Development Corporation of Santa Monica CA, in their operations in Boston, Massachusetts. There she met and fell in love with her husband Tom Selldorff who was a graduate student at M.I.T. at the time. She and Tom first met at a sailing venue in Marblehead, and she shared her husband’s love of sailing the rest of her life. They were married on May 31, 1958, in Chevy Chase Maryland and upon his graduation from M.I.T. in 1959 moved first to Rochester N.Y. where she had her first child, John Paul. Tom’s work took them to London, England in 1960 where two more children were born: Frank Richard and Jennifer Louise. Over the course of her marriage the family lived in London, then Paris France, then back to the United States in 1967 where they settled in Weston, Massachusetts a suburb of Boston. In 1974 Tom’s career took the family back to Europe, and they lived in Brussels, Belgium. Carolyn took all these moves in stride, nurturing her family while Tom was traveling and managing the household in new and sometimes unfamiliar surroundings. She enjoyed making new friends wherever she went and participating actively in local organizations like the American Women’s Club. In 1980 the family returned to Weston until moving to the North Hill Independent living facility in 2019.
She was adventurous, patient, and resourceful and loved the opportunity of getting to know new worlds and new people, adapting quickly to new customs, foods and languages and taking part in local activities wherever they lived. She was a skilled cook, skier, tennis player, sailor and an enthusiastic tourist, and she and her family enjoyed these activities all over Europe, North Africa and the Caribbean.
She had studied classical piano in her early years in Chicago, but gave that up to raise the family. During her years in England she developed a keen interest in gardening and flower arrangements that stayed with her all her life. She created the most beautiful gardens wherever she lived, in Europe and later in Weston where she was an active member of the Weston Garden Club. In her later years she became fascinated by Ikebana, the ancient and traditional 500-centuries-old Japanese art of flower arranging and was an active member of the Ikenobo/Ikebana Society of Boston. She was also an avid reader and member of several small, intimate book clubs.
Once the children were safely off to college, she obtained her MBA in Information Technology from Boston University in 1984 and returned to full time employment. Until her retirement in 2000 she was a Program Manager for software design and implementation at the U.S. Department of Transportation headquarters in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Her main passion was for her family, and then for flowers, reading and travel. She loved sailing, cruising and occasionally racing with family and friends on “Kinship” the family sailboat in Buzzards Bay along the south coast of Massachusetts, where she was an active member of the New Bedford Yacht Club. In retirement, she and her husband traveled widely with a group of friends. Her trips took her to the Caribbean, Greece, Turkey, Egypt, Thailand and India...among others.
She was predeceased by her parents Carroll and Louise Wolfinger. She is survived by her husband Tom with whom she lived and loved during more than 65 years of marriage, her children John Paul Selldorff of Chatham, MA and Wellington, FL, Frank Richard Selldorff of Boston and Cotuit MA and Jennifer Louise Hellerman of Ashland MA and five grandchildren: Samantha and Alexandra Selldorff, Matthew and Lili Hellerman and Francis Selldorff. She is also survived by her sister Charlotte and brother Frank of Chicago, IL and their offspring, as well as untold numbers of friends from all over the world. She was a gracious, kind and talented person and her memories will endure in the lives of everyone she touched.
The funeral will be private. A memorial service of remembrance for her family and friends is planned to take place in Weston in mid-May 2024 when the flowers she loved so much will be in bloom.
In the meantime, donations in her honor can be made to the charity of your choice, or to the Ikenobo/Ikebana Society of Boston and sent to Mimi Santini-Ritt, Treasurer, 92 Grant Ave, Newton Centre, MA 02459